Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Netball: Quartet set to stick with Magic for defence

Tactix attacker Ellen Halpenny (centre) has been signed to replace Naoupu. Photo / Getty
Tactix attacker Ellen Halpenny (centre) has been signed to replace Naoupu. Photo / Getty

The Magic look to have retained their 'big four' and will call on the services of another New Zealand representative to replace Julianna Naoupu.

Despite interest from several other franchises and some difficulties in getting all of the financial details in place, the ANZ Championship title holders should take the court next year with Silver Ferns Laura Langman, Casey Williams, Irene van Dyk and Leana de Bruin back in Magic colours.

At least three will be confirmed at a sponsors' function early this week and any other outstanding signatures won't be far away. The famed quartet are the Magic's best paid players by some distance and are believed to take up more than half the total wage bill. Their pay packets are topped up by third-party deals but the Magic - despite their outstanding 2012 campaign - have yet to secure all of that external investment for the 2013 season, though they hope to do so in the coming weeks.

In a further complication, the salary cap has increased from $350,000 this year to $380,000 but it has also become a 'harder cap', where some additional player payments must be included, unlike in previous years.

It also means the thousands spent on flying Van Dyk to trainings and games from her home in Wellington will have to be included under the cap.

The 2013 season will represent the 11th season in Waikato for Langman and Williams, who joined the Magic while at school in 2003. Van Dyk and De Bruin also joined the same year, though De Bruin has spent time with other franchises over her career.

It is a coup for the Magic. Langman and Williams are ranked among the best in the world in their positions, Van Dyk gets better with age and De Bruin, who was the ANZ Championship Grand Final MVP, was one of Ferns' best in the recent Quad Series and player of the match in last Thursday's victory against Australia.

Meanwhile, Tactix attacker Ellen Halpenny has been signed to replace Naoupu, with the latter returning to her native Christchurch despite a breakthrough season for the Magic where she was named best young player in the ANZ Championship.

Halpenny was a foundation player at the Tactix but didn't see much court time in the first two years of the ANZ Championship. The 22-year-old enjoyed her most consistent campaign last season, playing in every game for the Tactix, shooting 201 goals (at an accuracy rate of 74 per cent) and contributing 35 assists. But she has been squeezed out of the Tactix by the arrival of Naoupu, who will play alongside English import Joanne Harten while Silver Fern Anna Thompson has also re-signed for the club.

Halpenny represented the New Zealand under-21 team at the 2009 World Youth Championships and was part of the national Fastnet team in 2010 that Robyn Broughton coached to victory in Liverpool.

Meanwhile, Netball New Zealand have completed interviews for the Magic's CEO position, as well as the other four franchises in the ANZ Championship. An announcement is expected later this week. It might seem a tough call for the incumbent Sheryl Dawson if she misses out on the role.

The Magic broke a New Zealand drought in the ANZ Championship and Dawson has secured her marquee players for another season - but Netball New Zealand has stressed there are no guarantees.

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 22 Dec 2014 00:20:48 Processing Time: 548ms